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Helpless

Posted by James Keller on 11/06/17 @ 11:51 AM

6 Look at it this way: At the right time, while we were still helpless, Christ died for ungodly people Romans 5:6 (GW).

My dad lives in a nursing home.  Parkinson’s disease has turned his body against him.  He is physically weak and shaky.  A series of TIAs have also weakened his mind.  His short-term memory is all but gone.  He gets confused.  He wants to do things, but he is unable.  Even the simplest of tasks that he was able to quickly do in the past are now all-day labors. He often bemoans his helplessness. 

One of the things I do when I visit my dad (which I try do almost every day) is to read the Bible to him.  As I read, we talk about the Scriptures.  Most of the time I explain things, and he nods affirmatively.  Sometimes he interjects with an observation or a question.

Recently we were reading 2 Corinthians 3.  I was explaining to Dad about why Moses had to wear a veil over his face (2 Corinthians 3:13).  We were talking about how without the Holy Spirit, it is impossible for us to understand the Bible.  Dad asked, “Is that why I can’t understand the Bible?  Because I don’t have the Holy Spirit?”  He was concerned that he would not make it to heaven.  His dementia has removed the filter between his brain and his mouth.  He says things that are not appropriate.  He was afraid that he had lost the Holy Spirit. 

My dad felt helpless.  That is where Romans 5:6 comes in.  Our God is a God who helps the helpless.  He is a God who provides for those who cannot provide for themselves.  God knew my Dad’s helpless state (and mine, as well as yours, too), and out of His great and undeserved love for us, He did something about it.  1 John 4:10 (GW)10 This is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the payment for our sins.

Not only does God take care of our sins, but He also takes care of our unbelief. Ephesians 2:8 (GW) 8 God saved you through faith as an act of kindness. You had nothing to do with it. Being saved is a gift from God.  Faith is a gift from God.  God who saves the helpless also gives faith to the helpless. 

As I talked with my dad, I asked him what he believed about Jesus.  He confessed Jesus as his Lord and Savior from sin.  I reminded my dad that God helps the helpless.  God opens heaven to those who don’t deserve it.  Our ability to get to heaven is not dependent on us and what we have done or will do.  Our salvation is based on Jesus, what He has done and continues to do for us.  My dad looked off into the distance and sighed, “That’s good!  That’s real good!”  Yes, it is good for helpless sinners like us!

Christ’s slave,

Pastor jim

No More Trouble?

Posted by James Keller on 10/30/17 @ 11:01 PM

John 16:33 (ESV) 33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

There are those who think that once they come to faith in Jesus, all their problems will go away.  But that is not what Jesus has promised.  In John 16:33 He, in fact, says that we will have tribulations or trouble.  Jesus does not promise to take these away.

When the children of Israel were wandering around in the wilderness, they complained against God.  God sent poisonous serpents to bite them.  The children of Israel asked Moses to ask God to take away the serpents.  God didn’t take away the serpents.  Instead, He had Moses make a serpent out of bronze and set it up on a pole.  Anyone who was bit by a serpent could look at the bronze serpent and they would live (Numbers 21:4-9). 

Jesus once compared Himself to the bronze serpent on the pole (John 3:14).  If God provided a way for the Children of Israel to be saved without removing the serpents, why should Jesus remove the tribulations today?  God gave the Children of Israel a way to be saved from the poison of the snakes without removing the pain of the bite.  He was providing for them without taking them out of the world.  They needed a reminder that that they needed God.  Jesus promises to give us a peace, not to take away the tribulations.  Jesus gives us a peace that is beyond our understanding (Philippians 4:7).  Amid our tribulations, Jesus gives us a peace.  He doesn’t remove the trouble, but he gives us a peace that helps us to endure the tribulation. 

A big part of that peace that we have is the knowledge that Jesus has overcome the world.  Whatever tribulation you are going through, there is peace and comfort in knowing that Jesus has conquered it.  Jesus is greater than any tribulation you are going through or will go through.  He has overcome it.  Because He has overcome it, He will help you get through it!

Christ’s slave,

Pastor jim

God of the Living

Posted by James Keller on 10/16/17 @ 10:12 PM

Matthew 22:32 (GW)
32  ‘I am the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.' He's not the God of the dead but of the living.”

Over the last few days I have attended a viewing for a person who died, participated in an internment (placing of the remains in the ground), and spoken with someone who has lost a parent a few months back.  In these occasions, the grieving families have struggled with whether to refer to the persons in the past tense or the present tense.

Jesus tells us in Matthew 22:32 that those who have died with faith in Christ are not in the past.  They are living today!  Think of it this way, if your sibling moved to a far-away country, how would you refer to your brother or sister? Would you refer to him or her in the past tense or in the present tense?  You would refer to your brother or sister in the present tense.  Though you do not see him or her now, you are looking forward to the time when you will be reunited. 

That is how followers of Jesus are to view those who have gone before us.  They have moved to a different country.  They have left this earth of pain and suffering.  They haven’t ceased to exist.  They have just changed their residence.  One day we will have a grand reunion.  Why? 

Because God is not the God of the dead but of the living!  Jesus has proven that He is too strong for death.  That first Easter morning, death was defeated.  Just as Jesus’ grave was left empty so too will ours be.  But as we wait for that glorious day, God is still the God of the living, not just those alive here on earth right now, but of all who live by faith in Christ. 

So, don’t talk about your loved ones in the past.  Talk about them in the present with the hope of reunion coming!

Christ’s slave,

Pastor jim

A Call to Action

Posted by James Keller on 10/09/17 @ 2:16 PM

James 1:22 (GW)
22  Do what God's word says. Don't merely listen to it, or you will fool yourselves.

How much listening do we do on any given day?  We go through the day with the radio on in the background (or the TV).  It provides background noise but are we really listening to it?  At the end of the day can we really say what we have heard?

This is what James is talking about herein James 1:22. But instead of talking about the radio or music, he is talking about God’s Word.  Do you read the Bible just to mark off a box on your daily “to do” list?  Do you sit politely in church during the sermon but your mind is miles away?  Then you are guilty of James 1:22. Reading the Bible or listening to the sermon doesn’t do you any good unless you put it into practice. 

As one theologian once said, “A said faith is a dead faith.”  But a living faith is one that not only listens but obeys.  The next time you are reading your Bible (which I hope is every day) try asking yourself these questions:

1)      What did this mean for those who were there?

2)      Why did God include this in His Word?

3)      What does God want me to do about this today?

The next time you are sitting in church listening to a sermon, instead of thinking, I wish so and so was her to hear this.”  You should be asking yourself these questions:

1)      How does this sermon apply to me?

2)      What should I do about it?

3)      How can I share what I have learned today with others this week?

By asking yourself these questions and seriously answering them you are well on your way from merely listening to the word of God to doing what God says. 

Christ’s slave,

Pastor jim

P.S.  E-mail me if you would like a PDF of tips that can improve your Bible study.

Comfort!

Posted by James Keller on 10/02/17 @ 12:25 AM

2 Timothy 1:9 (GW)
9  God saved us and called us to be holy, not because of what we had done, but because of his own plan and kindness. Before the world began, God planned that Christ Jesus would show us God's kindness.

This verse brings great comfort.  Why?

1)      God saved usGod is the actor, not ourselves.  God initiates, not us.  Our salvation starts with God.

2)      not because of what we had done. Our salvation is not dependent on us or our actions.  Too many times we think that we must first do something in order for God to act.  But this verse is very clear; God acts without our doing anything.  Our doing actually interferes with God’s acting.  If we think we must first do something, it places the burden of our salvation on ourselves.  This leaves the door wide open to doubt.  “Have I done enough?  Have I done the right thing?  Can I undo my salvation by my wrong actions?”  Instead, we are assured that God saves us despite ourselves.  God saves us without our doing.  God does the saving.  We are the saved.

3)      because of his own plan and kindness.  The God’s Word translation often translates the word we know as grace as kindness.  Grace is getting the love of God that we don’t deserve.  This verse tells us that God had planned to give us His love.  God had planned to give us grace. God had planned to love us even though we don’t deserve God’s love! 

4)      Before the world began, God planned that Christ Jesus would show us God's kindness. Before Genesis 1:1, God made a plan to give us His grace.  God knew before He spoke the universe into existence that we would mess it up.  Yet He went ahead and created everything, including you and me.  God knew our every sin before anything was ever made.  God planned out how to take care of our sin before we sinned.  God planned out that Jesus, the second person of the Trinity, would suffer and die in our place.  All this before He created anything, He created the plan to save everyone.  Our sin, my sin, was not a surprise to God.  God knew in advance what my sin tomorrow will be.  God knew it and still created me.  More than that, He planned out how to save me from myself.  He didn’t leave me in my sin.  He knew that I am helpless to do anything about my sin.  God planned it out for Jesus to become my sin, to become your sin, so that you and I could be called holy.

5)      and called us to be holy.  We are holy not because of our actions but because of Jesus’ actions.  At the cross Jesus exchanged His holiness for our sinfulness.  He was cursed; we are blessed.  He died so that we would live.  His obedience is exchanged for our disobedience.  Jesus rises, and we rise with Him.  Again, this is not our actions but Jesus’ actions.  We are holy only because we are united to Christ who is holy. 

There are many other passages that bring great comfort in the Bible.  Why does God tell us in so many places that He loves us?  Because we need to hear it over and over again.  Why?  Because it seems too good to be true. Because you and I are weak human beings.  Because the devil wants us to doubt it.  Because God loves us so!

Christ’s slave,

Pastor jim

Dead or Alive

Posted by James Keller on 09/28/17 @ 8:33 AM

Romans 6:11(ESV) 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. 

Which would you rather be: Dead or Alive?  Notice that we are not given the option of being dead and alive.  It is one or the other.  You are either dead to God and alive to sin or you are dead to sin and alive to God.  Actually, you are either dead in sin and dead towards God or you are dead to sin and alive by God.

God is clear in his Bible that sin = death. 

Romans 6:23a (GW) 23  The payment for sin is death.

Ephesians 2:1 (GW) 1  You were once dead because of your failures and sins.

Colossians 2:13a (GW) 13  You were once dead because of your failures and your uncircumcised corrupt nature.

Yet God is equally clear that Jesus = life

John 14:6 (GW)6  Jesus answered him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one goes to the Father except through me.

Romans 6:23 (GW)23  The payment for sin is death, but the gift that God freely gives is everlasting life found in Christ Jesus our Lord.

John 1:4 (GW) 4  He was the source of life, and that life was the light for humanity.

John 3:36 (GW)36  Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life. Instead, he will see God's constant anger.”

John 6:35 (GW) 35  Jesus told them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never become hungry, and whoever believes in me will never become thirsty.

So, sin=death and Jesus=life.  the choice is clear, isn’t it?  Yet too many of us want to play both sides.  We like the sin but want the life.  Is that possible?

Revelation 3:15-16 (GW)15  I know what you have done, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were cold or hot. 16  But since you are lukewarm and not hot or cold, I'm going to spit you out of my mouth.

No, you must be either one or the other.  If you try to be both, you will only be dead.

Why would you want to be dead?  Especially when Jesus gives life?  Choose life!

Christ’s slave,

Pastor jim

Theological Theorems

Posted by James Keller on 09/17/17 @ 11:33 PM

1 Corinthians 13:4-5 (GW)
4  Love is patient. Love is kind. Love isn't jealous. It doesn't sing its own praises. It isn't arrogant.
5  It isn't rude. It doesn't think about itself. It isn't irritable. It doesn't keep track of wrongs.

Do remember properties and theorems from Geometry?  If A=B and B=C, then A=C.  As I was reading 1 Corinthians 13, I began remembering the transitive property.  Let A stand for God.  Let B stand for love.

1 John 4:8 (GW)

8  The person who doesn't love doesn't know God, because God is love.  This verse tells us that God(A) = Love (B).  [The word for love used in 1 Corinthians 13 and in 1 John 4:8 is the same word in the Greek.]

John 10:30 (GW) 

30  “The Father and I are one.”

Colossians 2:9 (GW)
9  All of God lives in Christ's body.

John 1:1 (GW)
1  In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God.

These verses tell us that Jesus (C) = God (A).  Therefore, if God (A) = Love (B), and Jesus (C) = God (A), then Jesus (C) = Love (B).

4  Jesus is patient. Jesus is kind. Jesus isn't jealous. He doesn't sing his own praises. He isn't arrogant. 5  He isn't rude. He doesn't think about himself. He isn't irritable. He doesn't keep track of wrongs.

Jesus is patient.  Jesus stands at the door and knocks (Rev. 3:20).  He doesn’t pound on the door or kick the door in.  He is patient with us.  Just think about how many times you and I forget what we are supposed to do or know.  We doubt Jesus and His love.  Yet he deals with us patiently.

Jesus is kind.  Jesus does not act in anger toward us but rather is gentle and kind toward us (Matthew 12:16-21).  Jesus does not force Himself upon us but rather draws us to Himself through love.

Jesus isn’t jealous.  There are two types of jealousy in the Bible.  The first type is the selfish, destructive type. (Think of My Super Ex-Girlfriend.) Then there is the type of jealousy that is beneficial.  This type of jealousy is a protective kind of jealousy.  God is jealous for us.  He wants to protect us from false gods, the devil, and harm (Zechariah 1:14-16).  Jesus is not the destructive kind of jealous.  He came not to destroy but to save.

He doesn’t sing his own praises.  Jesus came to point people back to the Father.  He came to bring glory to the Father (John 14:13).

He isn’t arrogant.  Jesus was not proud, but rather humble.  He even humbled Himself to the point of death (Philippians 2:6-11).

He isn’t rude.  Jesus never was disrespectful toward people.  He did speak harshly at times but that was to call people to repentance who were secure in their sins.

He doesn’t think about Himself.  Jesus was not looking out for His best interests but rather for our best interests.  It wasn’t in His best interest to suffer and die.  It wasn’t in His best interest to become sin, the very thing He hated.  But it was in our best interest.  It was the only way that we could be saved.

He isn’t irritable.  How blessed we are that Jesus doesn’t get cross with us!  How blessed we are that Jesus doesn’t have “bad” days! 

He doesn’t keep track of wrongs.  This is a big one.  What if Jesus kept track of our sins?  What if He said, “You have exceeded your forgiveness limit!”  What trouble we would be in!  But Jesus forgives and forgets!

Take time to read 1 Corinthians 13 and replace the word love with Jesus.  Meditate on each statement about Jesus.  Think about how that applies to your life.  Then ask Jesus to help you to live more like Jesus in how you love others!

Christ’s slave,

Pastor jim

The Responsibility of Family

Posted by James Keller on 09/17/17 @ 9:26 PM

Romans 12:10 (GW)
10  Be devoted to each other like a loving family. Excel in showing respect for each other.

What are the responsibilities of being in a family?  The first and greatest responsibility is to love.  Not be loved but to love.  You are responsible for loving the other members of a family.  How do the other members feel the love?  By respecting them.  But being in the family also has other responsibilities.  I have nine children.  When you have a large family, it is critical that everyone has a job to do and everyone does his or her job.  It is the same in the family of Christ called the church.  Last week we looked at spiritual gifts.  It is everyone’s responsibility to use her or his spiritual gifts for the benefit of the family.

Our memory verse for this last week says that we are to be devoted to each other.  It is hard to be devoted (or show devotion) to each other if we do not spend regular time together.  In our family, we make it a priority to eat together at least once a week if not more.  This is a time for us to enjoy each other, reconnect, and catch up with what is going on in each other’s lives.    As a church, it means the same thing.  We gather together regularly.  We spend time together.  We gather each week as God’s children.  We sing together, we pray together, we learn together, we grow closer to our heavenly Father and to each other.  When a member of our church stays away from regular worship, they are staying away from the family of God.  They are saying, as one of my seminary professors was fond of saying, “Jesus, I love you but I hate your children!”

Don’t stay away from our weekly worship service!  Be devoted to each other like a loving family.  If you have a problem with someone, forgive them.  Don’t let the devil keep you away from your Father’s family!

Christ’s slave,

Pastor jim

Healthy VS Unhealthy Bodies

Posted by James Keller on 09/02/17 @ 1:21 PM

1 Corinthians 12:27 (GW)
27  You are Christ's body and each of you is an individual part of it.

I am overweight.  There I said it!  I am so glad to get that off my chest.  Actually, if I could get it off my chest (and belly) I wouldn’t be overweight.  How did I get this way?  Certain parts of my body worked harder while others worked less.  My stomach growled for more food and my muscles in my arms and legs did not work as hard as they should.  In other words, I ate more than I exercised.  This led to my being unhealthy.

It’s the same way with the body of Christ.  Paul says that we are all part of the body of Christ if we follow Jesus as our lord and savior.  Just like in my body, each of us has a part or job to do.  Just as in my body, if one part doesn’t do its job, it affects the whole body.  Other parts may overwork to make up for it.  These overworked parts get fatigued.  The under worked parts grow weaker.  This leads to unhealth in our church.  Everyone is needed to do their part to keep our church healthy.

How am I changing my unhealthy ways?  I am limiting my portions and increasing my exercise.  How can our church be healthy?  Only if all of us use our spiritual gifts in the church.  Does that mean our church will be inwardly focused?  No. A healthy church is also outwardly focused.  Some of the spiritual gifts have to do with evangelism and outreach.  A healthy church (and body of Christ) is one where each of us uses his or her spiritual gifts for the glory of God.  God is generous and will make sure that our church has the right mix of spiritual gifts to be healthy.  Unhealth comes in when we refuse to use our spiritual gifts.  It is that simple. 

Now it is time for me to take a walk!

Christ’s slave,

Pastor jim

Riches of Grace

Posted by James Keller on 08/28/17 @ 8:54 AM

Ephesians 1:7 (ESV)

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace.

Grace is often defined as God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.  Have you ever thought about just how rich God’s grace is?  He freely gives us His Son.  He freely gives us forgiveness of all our sins.  Just that alone is a demonstration of the riches of God’s grace. 

How often do you sin in a day?  Add up all the days of your life.  But wait, you are still living.  This means that you will continue to sin.  You will continue to need God’s grace.  You will continue to be in need of forgiveness.  Are you starting to understand the riches of God’s grace?

What about all the other good gifts that God gives you?  You don’t deserve them.  Yet our loving God freely gives them.  Things like sunshine, rain, family, friends, clothing, house, food, music and the list goes on.  All those things that you and I take for granted are really examples of God’s riches of his grace. 

Today, meditate just on the phrase, “the riches of his grace.”  Let me know what you learn and how your journey of faith is impacted!

Christ’s slave,

Pastor jim

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